BILL GOULD 'Angel Dust' Q and A revisited
Faith No More's inspiring fourth album Angel Dust is often considered by fans as their greatest. It saw the involvement in song-writing from Mike Patton who also showed development and maturity in vocal styles and lyric writing. The band's sound hugely progressed from previous album The Real Thing, they flirted with more genres than before and explored more extreme dynamics. Roddy Bottum's palate of keyboard sounds grew as did his use of samples. The chemistry with producer Matt Wallace was undeniable, however the alienation of guitarist Jim Martin was also strikingly apparent.
As part of the 20th anniversary celebrations, in 2012 members of our team were part of hosting a question and answer session with bassist Bill Gould on the now unavailable Faith No More Blog page. Whilst digging around in our archive we found the article and have reinstated it here.
Bill's answers are fascinating and reveal much that was unknown of the making of this astounding record.
I just wanted to say, all excellent questions here. And also, it's a great feeling to know that we made something 20 years ago that is still alive and inspiring people...as a musician, this is the best outcome you can hope for, so THANK YOU!!!
BILL GOULD 'Angel Dust' Q and A revisited
What's the story behind smaller and smaller? You guys never played this one live, what's the reason for this?
Well, to US (meaning the guys in the band), FNM is like two different bands; one exists to write and record music, the other is a live band that tries to make a 70-90 min set as powerful as possible. For some reason or another, we tend to gravitate towards what is called "mid-tempo" in our writing...in other words, songs that are not fast, but not exactly ballads either. This is all great to listen to, but when it comes to playing live, too many mid-tempo songs make the set really boring, for us, and for the crowd. Believe, when it happens, it sucks!! Our worst nightmare is being in the middle of a set and losing momentum...at that point it becomes hard work and little fun. "Smaller and Smaller" while pretty grandiose in concept, always felt too long and too...plodding...to even consider doing live. And truth be told, we were never quite as attached to that one as some of the others....
Bill, going into writing and recording Angel Dust what were the bands musical influences (both separately and collectively) as well as the bands overall mindset while working together. Also, was there ever any bands you guys exposed each other to while being a band that might not have happened if you guys never crossed paths?
This is a good question. At the time we wrote Angel Dust, hair metal bands were still the kings...but I could definitely not call them inspiration by any means...and what we were listening (collectively) to at the time, I almost can't remember. I know that there was rarely a time when all 5 of us liked the same thing at the same time. I went through some strange period where I was listening non-stop to an old SF pop radio station called Magic 61, that played stuff like The Mills Brothers, Gogie Grant, Tony Bennet..."Midnight Cowboy" was a byproduct of this, as was the later covered "Greenfields" and "Spanish Eyes".
Between ourselves, yes, I think we were always turning each other on to stuff. We still do. And this definitely had an effect on the music.
Looking back at the studio sessions do you find it easier to create your music now with today's technology compared to back then or do you prefer some of the older equipment and technologies is there any equipment now that you wish you had back then?
Another very good question. I've always tried to embrace technology, and have been working with computers to make music since the Real Thing era, but there is still nothing as powerful or satisfying (or frustrating) to me as coming up with a good song or part the old fashion way...through inspiration. Technology still pales in comparison.
Dan Hexen Loix
Did you have some full video concerts of this era (1992) and would you consent to release a dvd or share on the net? that'd be great !There was never a whole concert of that era released on video or on TV.
That's a good idea, as some of the best shows we ever did were around that period. I have to say, our attitude towards shows back then was very intense and chaotic, it would be great to see some of those.
What if any outtakes or unused tracks exist from the AD sessions? Any chance of them turning up on a special edition of AD someday?
I don't think there are any, because if there were, then then record company would have definitely released them by now...
Frank Sickness Quinn
Are you surprised that the album has had such an impact over the years after a few of the early reviews were disparaging of the product? It is now agreed by most fan of music to be one of the greatest albums of all time, did you have any idea whilst recording that the album would become (please pardon the pun) so EPIC?
We had no idea what it would become....we just decided that no matter what, we would try to follow our instincts as much as possible, and do what feels right, with the hope that it would make a connection somewhere. In the beginning, it felt like the gamble didn't work. but now that it is 20 years later, it's extremely validating to feel like, in the end, we did make the connection and that our original instincts were correct.
Have the songs evolved over the years? Have they developed different meanings to you, through playing them live, hindsight and experiences you've had since the release of Angel Dust? Do they feel different now, to play and listen to, then they did back when they were first written? If yes, could you give an example? Josh.
All the songs evolve, fall in and out of favour with us, but for the most part, now that we've had a chance to really get to know them, I think we play most of them better. None of us really listen to the old recordings much, but when we do, they tend to feel a bit primitive. Case in point: I think we play "Small Victory" much better now than we did then. It just feels more solid.
Adriano Mazzeo Bermúdez
How was the creative process of AD? How did you reach such a variety of sounds? It was easy to agree your musical ideas with other members' ideas?
The creative process was totally creative, and in that sense also, very difficult. Ideas were coming from all over the place, and yet, it was very hard to get all 5 people in sync with anything. It did happen, but it took work. Really, I think we spent about 3 or 4 months writing the album and another 2 recording. By the end, everyone was pretty exhausted.
whilst touring 'the real thing' did you guys know the next album was going to be completely different? (style and genre wise) was it a tough or easy decision to change?
I can only speak for myself, but I knew that AD was going to be totally different. We had spent something like 16 months touring TRT and we were well fed up with those songs. Something had to happen to bring that spark back, and that could only happen by changing course and forging ahead into new territory. For me it was a very easy decision...our creative survival depended on it. But it was still a challenge.
Chad C. Watson
what songs did you play guitar on? Ive read that Jim Martin wasn't around for some of the recording. Did you use his rig or something different? How many rhythm tracks did you record on a song?
I did play some guitar on that record, but not as much as what is generally believed. Jim wasn't around much for rehearsal, but was around for the recording, and played the lion's share of the parts. I was more involved in the writing and arrangement side of things.
How much freedom did the members of the band have while writing/recording the album? Were you left to take it as far as you wanted, or was there someone (band member or record label) trying to reign it in? If so, any compromises that you regret?
First, to get this out of the way, there were compromises made on AD...by definition, and working in a democratic environment with 5 headstrong people, there has to be. Not everyone liked everything we were doing...it's safe to say that Jim was not too happy with a lot of it. But the record label thing, that came later. I think it's safe to say that we were able to make that record with no creative pressure whatsoever, other than the pressure we put on ourselves.
On a serious note, what's the most random thought you've had playing the extended version of Caffeine?
There have been many. Too many!!!! I've spaced out a few times and come back, only to find that my fingers were playing the whole time...strange feeling..! Thank god FNM songs are rhythm based, and I'm a bass player!!
Any chance of any of your albums (including AD) being remastered and re-released as special edition albums?
I've heard talk about it, but nothing definite. I know that Slash/WB has the rights to do whatever they want with that material, so it's possible.
Hi Bill. Maybe stupid question but who choose pic for cover- white bird?
Roddy had the idea of a white swan to go with the title, but we had a hard time finding something. At the end, a mutual friend knew a photographer and we went over to look at his stuff...and the bird was right there. We knew then and there that was the cover.
I second Ben's question. Seagull Song (or whatever it's called) might not be perfect, but you have released far inferior out-takes (instrumental jam from Who Cares A Lot?, Hippie Jam, etc.) What is the stigma about letting folks hear this jam?
Ha....we really don't like this one (!!!). We don't always agree on much but we do seem to agree on this...in our minds, it was a noble attempt but didn't really work.
During the touring for TRT and then with AD you were able to travel to many countries and areas that normal blue collar folks like me will never see... Did you experience any "Kultur" shock and if so, how do you think it effected your songwriting?
It made a massive impact on me and totally affected the songwriting...not to mention our outlook on life in general. Keep in mind, we hit some places at some critical periods of time...we toured almost a month in Brazil at a time when not many international bands made it down there...same with Chile....and then of course, we played at The Loft in Berlin the night the wall fell...we played Estonia very early on, and Poland and Czech Rep, too...I would say that the culture shock and experiences from this tour had a larger impact than anything else in my life.
Hey Bill, To me Angel Dust has some dark lyrics combined with heavy music yet always maintains a feel good mood throughout, Did you intend for this direction in your music or did it come naturally at the time you were recording and how were things in your life effecting your creativity?
Well, you know Chris, we are a strange bunch...in some ways, very dark and cynical people, and in others, very bright, positive and enthusiastic. I think this vibe is part of our aesthetic, because it partially reflects who we are as people.
Over the years this album has become a classic and well respected. At the time of it's release it was not as well received as it is today. What sort of reaction from fans and critics do you remember it getting back in 1992? Was it frustrating or disappointing or the band?
Well, it's pretty safe to say that our US label Warners (not Slash, who licensed the record to WB) didn't get it, and not much of the US press did either. Internally, we were having some strain, and the 5 month GnR tour we did didn't make things much better, but we had a lot of fire then too and played some killer shows. I felt a bit like an outlaw, we were actively pushing buttons, and not all of it was positive but as people and artists, looking back, it was a necessary stage in the process.
The album seems like it could flow well with the songs played in any order. Was there a lot of discussion about where the tracks should be on the album?
There was definitely a lot of discussion (an arguing) on song order, but I can't remember who won and who lost!
Angel Dust is a record full of layers, samples and the changes are all very radical, sometimes sounding like 2 or more songs altogether in 1. Very different from that initial pot-punk "tradition" of exploring all the possibilities of 1 theme, let's say like, "Why Do You Bother".What I want to know is, how much of that musical concept in A.D. came up in pre-production, was it a conscious decision or something that came up while recording it?
Thanks a Lot
I would say probably 80% of the material on AD came up in pre-production, with the rest happening in the studio....
The Videos for "Midlife Crisis" and "A Small Victory" seem to have both have high concepts and big budgets while the video for "Everything's Ruined" does not. Why was it that the video for "Everything's Ruined" (arguably the best song on the album) was so goofy and easy to produce?
The easy answer is, Warner's spent the video budget on "Small V" and "Midlife" so that when it came time to "Everything's Ruined" there's wasn't much left (!!). It was our idea to take this further and make a video as cheap as humanly possible, in one of those video booths like they had at county fairs, where you sing and dance in front of a blue screen. We didn't quite get to do that, but we got it as close as possible.